General Registration Policies

Transferring to Another SPS Program


Undergraduate students who wish to make changes in any of the following categories should submit an Academic Plan Form:

  • Bachelor degree programs
  • Major
  • Minor

Students who wish to transfer into the Business Leadership Program should speak to their adviser first and submit an updated resume and statement of purpose, explaining how their professional experience can help them contribute to the program.


In most cases, students can change their certificate program simply by submitting an Academic Plan form. However, those students who wish to change a program that falls within Professional Health Careers should also submit an updated statement of purpose, explaining why they seek to change certificates and how that will meet their professional goals.

*Please note: If you are in a degree seeking or certificate program within SPS, you cannot pursue any other program or certificate within Northwestern or SPS until you have completed your current program.

Curriculum Requirements

Before students select courses, they must make sure to check the curriculum requirements in place at the time of initial enrollment into the degree or certificate program. Undergraduate students can find this information on the credit evaluation issued to them at the time of admission (or as an update to the credit evaluation from the Registrar’s Office). For post-baccalaureate students, this is the list of courses initially agreed upon with an adviser at the time of admission. Post-baccalaureate students who wish to change their planned curriculum may submit a petition to the Student Affairs Committee explaining their reasons for doing so.

Course Registration

Students should consult the undergraduate course listings for the most up-to-date information. Course descriptions, instructor information, day/time and campus information, term start and end dates and course prerequisites are listed.

Students register for all courses through CAESAR. More information may be found at the Using CAESAR section of the student handbook.

Room assignments are available at least one week before the quarter begins, and can be viewed in CAESAR or with the SPS course schedule page.

Students may register for courses from the time registration opens (approximately six to eight weeks before the quarter starts) until the add deadline (Friday the first week of classes). The late registration period begins approximately two to four weeks before the term starts – adding courses during this period carries a $75 fee for late registration. Exact dates of registration periods are found in the SPS Undergraduate Academic Calendar.

Students are responsible for adhering to registration deadlines. It is the student’s responsibility to register and, if necessary, drop classes by the posted deadlines.

SPS encourages students to register for courses at the earliest possible date. Early registration helps SPS schedule courses that students need more effectively. Some courses fill up quickly, and early registration will let SPS staff know whether an additional section (where possible) is needed. Students who delay registration may find that an under-enrolled course has been cancelled due to apparent lack of interest.

If registration questions or problems arise, please contact the SPS Registrar’s Office at or 312-503-6951.

Taking More than Two Courses in a Quarter

SPS undergraduate and certificate programs are designed to be completed part-time to accommodate the busy schedules of working adults. If the schedule of a student who is not on Performance-Based Admission allows, they may take up to four courses in a quarter. PBA degree students are limited to two courses until formally admitted.

CAESAR limits self-service registration to two courses. To register for more than two courses, students must contact the SPS registrar at to request that their enrollment capacity be lifted. This request must be made before students attempt course registration on CAESAR or they will have to register for their third and fourth classes by submitting a change of registration form.


Prerequisites indicate the expected background for a course. If no prerequisite is noted, none is required. 300-level courses (any course numbered 300 -399) are generally designed for junior and senior standing and in all cases assume prior experience with University courses. If students are just entering Northwestern or returning after an absence, they should take 100- or 200-level courses before attempting 300-level courses, even when no prerequisites are noted.

Students are responsible for being aware of course requirements. Students can request a course summary from the SPS Registrar and discuss course requirements and sequencing with their adviser, but it is the student’s responsibility to enroll in the appropriate courses. They should look carefully at the requirements for each major, minor or certificate and plan early how to schedule courses to take care of prerequisites.

Course Cancellation

The University reserves the right to cancel classes when necessary, including those for which registration is not sufficient. Students will be notified by their academic program once the course has been cancelled and will be dropped for those by the Registrar's office.

Dropping Courses

Dropping a course refers to the student removing themselves from enrollment. Students who drop all their courses for a given quarter are sometimes referred to as “withdrawing” from the academic quarter. At SPS, this simply indicates that an active student is not enrolled for that quarter, not that the individual is no longer a student.

How to Drop a Course During the Registration Period

Students can drop a course via self-service in CAESAR until the end of the registration period for the term (until roughly the end of the first week of the term, exact dates found on the SPS Undergraduate Academic Calendar).  Classes dropped during  this time will not appear on the student’s official transcript but are subject to Refund policy.

How to Drop a Course During the Term

After the end of the registration period, students may request to drop a course until the drop deadline (roughly at sixth week of the term, exact dates found on the SPS Undergraduate Academic Calendar). To drop a course after the registration period and prior to the drop deadline, students must submit a Change of Registration form to the SPS Registrar’s Office in order to withdraw from the course. The SPS Registrar’s Office will accept this form by email at, providing it is sent from the student’s Northwestern email account. Dropped classes prior during this time will not appear on the student’s official transcript.

Requesting to Be Withdrawn From a Class After the Drop Deadline

In rare cases, a student may request to be removed from a course after the drop deadline.  Requests to be removed from a class after the drop deadline is considered a withdrawal. Students may initiate a request for withdrawal by submitting the Change of Registration form to the SPS Registrar’s Office until the Friday of the week before finals (prior to the date of final exam, project or paper in the particular course has been reached), a date that we will confirm with your instructor. The SPS Registrar’s Office will accept this form by email at providing it is sent from the student’s Northwestern email account.

All withdrawals after the drop deadline will result in a “W” (withdrawal) grade being posted to the student’s official transcript. Undergraduate and Post Baccalaureate program students may have up to five W’s on their SPS transcript. Requests for withdrawals that exceed this limit will be denied.

Additional Policies Regarding Dropping a Course

  • If a student needs to drop a course, they must officially drop through CAESAR or through the SPS Registrar; it is not sufficient to simply notify the instructor, speak with one’s adviser, or to cease attending to class.
  • Students may drop courses without academic or financial penalty during the registration period each quarter. If a student drops a course before the add/drop deadline, they may be eligible for a refund. Please check the SPS Undergraduate Academic Calendar for registration period dates. For specific information on refunds, contact Student Financial Services.
  • CAESAR will not allow a student to drop all of their classes in a given term.  If a student would like to drop all classes in a given term, he or she should use the Change of Registration form to request that the SPS Registrar make this change on his or her behalf. The drop date will reflect the form submission date.
  • After the registration period has passed but before the end of the sixth week of the quarter, students may still drop courses without academic penalty. These courses will not appear on transcripts; however, students will not be eligible for a full tuition refund. For specific information on refunds, contact Student Financial Services.
  • Students who feel that extenuating circumstances may merit an exception to any of the above should submit a Student Affairs Petition outlining the reasoning and attach any relevant supporting documentation.

Administrative Drop Policy

It is the student’s responsibility to officially drop/withdraw from classes.

Students who fail to participate in their course(s) during the first two weeks of the quarter without contacting the faculty may be administratively dropped from the course(s). Administratively dropped courses will not appear on the student record and will receive a full tuition refund.

Logging into Canvas does not constitute participation. Non-participation is defined as the following:

  • No posts in graded discussion in Canvas
  • No graded quizzes submitted in Canvas
  • No graded assignment files uploaded to Canvas
  • Zero participation in the course as determined by the faculty member

Student may also be administratively dropped at any time from a course due to the following:

  • Student has not met the course prerequisite, co-requisite, or registration restrictions/requirements
  • Failing course requirements
  • Course cancellations
  • Student registration hold lifted at time of payment, and payment subsequently cannot be processed.

Financial aid recipients who drop from a course but remain enrolled in at least one other unit-bearing course for the same academic term may be required to return a portion of their federal financial aid (federal loans and/or grants), state assistance, outside scholarships, and/or institutional financial aid for that term. This return of funding may impact the balance or refund available on your Northwestern student account. The Office of Financial Aid will review your financial aid enrollment to determine if a return of financial aid would be required.

Dropping a course may influence your eligibility for federal and state financial aid in future terms due to the requirements outlined in the Satisfactory Academic Progress policy for your program. For more information on the impact of dropping a course on financial aid, contact the Chicago Office of Financial Aid or visit their website.

Credit Hours

Each course carries one unit of credit unless otherwise noted in the course description. One unit is equivalent to 4 quarter hours or 2 2/3 semester hours. Students transferring either semester hours or quarter hours to SPS should speak with the SPS Registrar about how credits are converted to units.

Course Numbering

  • 100-level courses: Foundational, usually without a prerequisite
  • 200-level courses: Intermediate, sometimes with the prerequisite of a 100-level course in the same or a related department
  • 300-level courses: Upper-level or, specialized, often with the prerequisite of a 100- or 200-level course in the same or a related department

Distribution Courses

Degree students complete coursework in the humanities, sciences and social sciences to obtain a broad experience in the liberal arts. The following areas include courses that satisfy these distribution requirements:

  • Humanities: art history, classics, comparative literary studies, dance history, English literature, history, music history, philosophy, religion and some courses in African American studies, foreign languages (up to two can be applied as humanities’ requirements), gender studies, performance studies, radio/television/film and theater
  • Sciences: astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, computer information systems, computer studies, engineering, geography, geological sciences, mathematics, physics, statistics and some courses in radio/television/film, anthropology and psychology
  • Social sciences: anthropology, economics, history, linguistics, political science, psychology, sociology and some courses in gender studies

Performance-Based Admissions (PBA)

Performance-Based Admission students must take ENGLISH 111-CN Writing Seminar II/ ENGLISH 111-DL Writing Seminar II and ENGLISH 205-CN Intermediate Composition/ ENGLISH 205-DL Intermediate Composition and choose two courses from the distribution areas to fulfill admission requirements. Students may contact an academic adviser if unsure about the area of the course. Keep in mind that PBA courses must come from at least two different areas (not just departments) of study.

Writing Requirement

The writing requirement ensures that students have the skills necessary to meet the rigorous writing demands of subsequent SPS courses in all majors and disciplines. Three expository writing courses — ENGLISH 110-CN Writing Seminar I:, ENGLISH 111-CN Writing Seminar II and ENGLISH 205-DL Intermediate Composition — provide the tools to meet the demands of advanced academic writing. These may not be audited or taken on a pass/no credit basis. Performance-Based Admission students must pass one of these writing courses during their first four courses.

  • Passing ENGLISH 111-CN Writing Seminar II /ENGLISH 111-DL Writing Seminar II or ENGLISH 205-CN Intermediate Composition / ENGLISH 205-DL Intermediate Compositionwith a grade of C or higher satisfies the writing requirement in the Bachelor of Science degree program.
  • Passing ENGLISH 111-CN Writing Seminar II/ENGLISH 111-DL Writing Seminar IIor ENGLISH 205-CN Intermediate Composition/ENGLISH 205-DL Intermediate Composition with a grade of C or higher satisfies the writing requirement in the Bachelor of Science in General Studies, the Bachelor of Philosophy, and the Bachelor of Philosophy in Communication programs. Students in these programs must also take ENGLISH 113-CN Introduction to Literature

Students may also submit an appeal to fulfill the writing requirement. More information on this process can be found on the bottom of the Degree Requirements page of the SPS website.

Northwestern Courses Outside of SPS

Students who have been admitted to an SPS bachelor’s degree program or a post-baccalaureate program and wish to pursue academic interests not available in SPS have the option to pursue possible enrollment in daytime undergraduate-level courses in other Northwestern schools. The following policies and procedure apply to all SPS student seeking enrollment in daytime courses (these policies and procedures do not apply to Summer Session enrollment):

  • SPS does not guarantee enrollment in courses at other schools within Northwestern University.
  • Students are required to meet with their SPS academic adviser about selection of daytime courses and have the adviser sign the request form. Students then will need to submit a Student Affairs Petition with the signed request form to the SPS Office of the Registrar. If approved, registration will be processed for the student on the first day of the term, if seats are available.
  • Prior to applying to the Chicago Field Studies Program, students must submit a Student Affairs Petition for approval. Students may apply a maximum of 6 Chicago Field Studies units towards their degree requirements.
  • To be eligible to pursue the possibility of enrolling in daytime courses, including the Chicago Field Studies Program, undergraduate students must have completed a minimum of 22 units (at least 4 units at SPS) and have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or better. Post-baccalaureate students should have completed at least half of their certificate programs.
  • If eligible, students should choose advanced-level courses that supplement their major or degree plans or certificate plans. Courses required for the major are eligible only if the relevant SPS courses have been cancelled and/or are not being offered.
  • Students may not register for daytime courses to make up a deficiency resulting from failing or incomplete grades.
  • Daytime courses may not be taken P/N.
  • SPS students may take a maximum of three day classes (excluding daytime courses taken during Summer Session). 

Advanced Study Requirement

Degree-seeking students must earn at least 14 units of courses at the 300 level.

Independent Study

An independent study is a customized course of study undertaken by a single student under the guidance of an instructor. Denoted by the course number 399, independent studies are comparable in their demands to other undergraduate-level courses.

To register for Independent Study, a student must

  1. Identify an SPS faculty member to supervise the independent study. To ensure compliance with Northwestern’s academic policies and standards, all independent study instructors must be preapproved by SPS administration. SPS reserves the right to reject any independent study instructor who does not have the requisite content expertise in the student’s area of study. Students with questions or concerns about choosing an independent study instructor should contact their academic adviser.
  2. Develop a syllabus, in consultation with his or her instructor that includes a list of readings, assignments, assignment deadlines and assessment criteria as well as a breakdown of how the grade will be calculated.
  3. Submit a completed Application for Independent Study, along with the course of study or syllabus, to the student's academic adviser by the deadlines given in the SPS Undergraduate Academic Calendar. Once registration is approved, the SPS registrar will register the student. 

Additional Policies on Independent Studies

  • Undergraduate degree-seekers may register for no more than four independent studies and may not register for more than one per term. Post-baccalaureate students are limited to two independent studies and must have two completed courses posted to their SPS transcripts before being eligible to apply for independent study.
  • An independent study may be undertaken only if an equivalent course is not offered by SPS once within four consecutive quarters. Students should contact their academic adviser for guidance on the independent study approval process.
  • Students who drop an independent study course must tell their adviser immediately. The same deadlines and policies that apply to other courses apply to independent studies. Refer to drop section.


Internships can provide a great opportunity for students to gain paid or unpaid workplace experience. While SPS does not actively place students in internships, the school encourages students to seek out internship opportunities, either as a supplement to their program or as part of an independent study (399).

While an internship alone cannot be directly counted for credit towards one’s degree, a student can take advantage of the internship’s experience and resources as the foundation of an independent study. To incorporate an internship into an independent study, students should follow the independent study registration procedures and additional policies listed above. In addition,

  1. Students should check their academic adviser for guidance before considering any internship options.
  2. Students should write a detailed proposal, articulating specifically what they will be doing, what resources they will have access to at the internship and who will be supervising the internship. This proposal will need to be approved through the SPS Registrar. The student’s academic adviser can help guide the student through this process.
  3. Near the close of the internship, the internship supervisor should email a written evaluation of the student’s performance to the instructor. This evaluation should be based on clearly defined tasks and will factor into the student’s final grade.

Continuous Enrollment Requirement

Degree and certificate students who do not register for during the registration period for four consecutive quarters are considered to have “discontinued” their study at SPS and are withdrawn from their program and deactivated by the CAESAR system. In order to be reactivated and take courses again, students must submit the SPS Readmission Request Form. If readmitted, students may be subject to new curriculum requirements.
Students-at-large will be discontinued after two quarters of non-registration.

Certificates and Concentrations

Online Bachelor of Science Degree Certificate Options

The modular design of the SPS online degree programs enable students to choose one concentration (out of three choices) for their major, in addition to the 8 core courses. These concentrations are focused on applied knowledge that will be relevant to workplace needs, so that students can customize their major to match their desired professional path. A concentration is synonymous with a certificate, but the term concentration is used to denote a group of related courses within a major degree program as part of major course requirements.

In the Bachelor of Science degree, students are required to take one concentration within the major and one certificate outside of the major.

Pre-baccalaureate Certificates (stackable)

Pre-baccalaureate Certificate (no degree). Pre-baccalaureate certificate programs consist of academic course work in four units and are available for students who have not completed an undergraduate degree but are seeking to gain knowledge and skills for professional advancement. Upon successful completion, a certificate is awarded.

Pre-baccalaureate Certificate Later Transferred to Degree. Students enrolled in a pre-baccalaureate certificate can apply for an SPS undergraduate Bachelor of Science degree and, if admitted, transfer (stack) the four certificate courses into the degree as elective credit. Students need to complete the major course requirements and an additional certificate course requirements as part of their degree.

Pre-baccalaureate certificate course work cannot duplicate any of the core courses within majors or be applied to a major within degree programs. In cases where the content of the certificate matches one of the concentrations within a major, students must choose another concentration to fulfill major requirements.

In certain circumstances, students can petition for a course substitute: When completing the Programming Certificate, Artificial Intelligence Certificate, or the Data Science Certificate, a student who wants to register for the Information Systems major can petition to substitute CIS 323-CN Python for Data Science and CIS 324-CN Applied Data Science with two of the following:  CIS 212-CN Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming, CIS 385-CN Programming for the Web, CIS 325-DL Enterprise Data Science, CIS 326-CN Data Engineering, CIS 330-CN Human Computer Interaction for the concentration within the major.

When completing the Strategic Management Certificate, a student who wants to register for the Information Systems major can petition to substitute ORG_BEH 368-DL Project Management /ORG_BEH 368-CN Project Management with an ORG_BEH or COMM_ST course TBD.

Certificates Within the Bachelor of Science Programs

Credential Option 3: Concentration and Certificate within Degree Program. Students who begin their SPS studies in the Bachelor of Science program must   complete one concentration within a major and a certificate external to the major as part of the degree requirements. At time of degree conferral, the concentration and certificate will be noted on the transcript.

Credential Option 4: Certificate Possibility for Those Who Drop Out. If a degree-seeking student drops out of the Bachelor of Science program and requests a certificate, it will be awarded only if the major coursework (concentration courses included) and additional 4 course certificate has been completed. Upon re-entry into the program, the certificate that has been awarded will count toward elective credit.

Co-Curricular Activities

SPS students are encouraged to participate in SPS affinity groups:

  • SPS Student Alliance Board (SAB) for SPS undergraduate, credential-seeking students
  • SPS Pre-Health Professional Student Group (NUPP) for SPS professional health post-baccalaureate certificate students
  • SPS graduate co-curricular program affinity groups for SPS graduate students

Students must be actively enrolled in courses and admitted to a degree or credential program in order to participate in Northwestern co-curricular activities that are not open to the public.

SPS part-time programs are structured for the working adult and therefore SPS students are not charged the Northwestern University student activity fee. SPS students are to seek counsel from their academic adviser prior to pursuing membership in student groups outside of SPS. Northwestern University student groups, clubs and organizations may have additional membership requirements and fees.

SPS students must seel counsel from their academic adviser prior to pursuing membership in the student groups outside of SPS.

College-Level Examination Program Credit

The College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) allows students to demonstrate knowledge and gain college credit in a variety of areas. CLEP credits can satisfy prerequisites or reduce the number of courses needed for a degree. SPS accepts up to 11 units of credit from CLEP tests. Accepted CLEP credits would count toward the maximum 22.5 credit transfer limit.  

Students must submit a petition to the Student Affairs Committee to take a CLEP exam that can be counted toward a degree before registering for the test. It is helpful to consult an academic adviser before submitting the petition.

The CLEP page of the SPS website lists each exam, the minimum score required to receive credit, the units earned for successful completion of the exam and the equivalent SPS course for which students will earn credit. Please note that “1xx” indicates a 100-level course for which there is not an exact SPS equivalent. All official score reports are required to be on file in the SPS Registrar’s Office for credit to be awarded.

Advanced Placement Credit

The College Entrance Examination Board administers AP tests for high school students applying to colleges and universities. In nearly all subject areas, SPS counts a score of 4 or 5 on an AP test as one to two units of credit toward program requirements or electives; please check the Northwestern University registrar website for acceptable subjects and scores. AP tests do not satisfy major, minor or foreign language requirements. All official score reports must be sent at the time of application to the

Registrar’s Office
339 East Chicago Avenue
Eighth floor
Chicago, Illinois 60611-3008

Scores are required to be on file for credit to be awarded.

International Baccalaureate Examination Credit

Results of higher-level International Baccalaureate examinations are evaluated for possible award of academic credit. A score of 5 or higher on a higher-level IB examination currently receives course credit. All official score reports must be on file in the SPS Registrar’s Office for credit to be awarded.